The causes of Anxiety Disorders are myriad, and far from being straight cut. If anything, this is usually caused by a combination of different factors and their unique interaction with each other that can serve to affect a person to the extent that they develop an Anxiety Disorder. Of course, each person is different, but with continued research, scientists have all but debunked the notion that Anxiety Disorders are caused by any personal weaknesses, low intelligence, poor upbringing, or individual flaws or imperfections.
In this chapter, we take a look at some of the more common causes of Anxiety Disorders, bearing in mind that it is usually a combination of two or more of the following possible causes that can effectively result in a person developing an Anxiety Disorder. There is no single factor that could single-handedly cause anxiety, which means that even if you find yourself exposed to one or more of the following possible causes, it does not necessarily mean that you will suffer from an Anxiety Disorder. This is important to remember because sometimes, anticipating or being worried about suffering from an anxiety attack can only make things worse when and if it does take place.
The following have been identified as potential causes of Anxiety Disorders, or as a crucial risk factor in the development of this condition.
Ascribed to being one of the potential effects of long-term exposure to stress, changes in the way our brain functions may conceivably contribute to the development of Anxiety Disorders.
Strong emotions, possible changes in the function of brain circuits, and the way nerve cells transmit information could also affect the way we process emotions such as fear and anxiety.
Significant stressful events in our immediate environment can also contribute to the possible development of Anxiety Disorders. Major life changes, illnesses, loss, or trauma, for instance, could have us reaching too deeply into our well of emotions.
Ongoing stress in our daily life that goes on for a too long period of time can also lead to chronic anxiety or panic attacks, such as a stressful job, a stressful family or home life, or the ongoing presence of some form of abuse in a person’s familial or social relationship could naturally lead to some form of worry or anxiety. If the environmental causes are also ongoing, then it makes it more likely that the anxiety or panic attacks could develop into an Anxiety Disorder.
While this has yet to be proven, and the particular genetic markers identified, Anxiety Disorders do seem to run in families, thereby arguing strongly for what could be a biological basis. What this tells us is that there could be a greater likelihood for a person having an Anxiety Disorder if someone in their family also suffers from the same condition. Traumatic or stressful events or major life changes can offer trigger this condition if one has inherited a predisposition for anxiety.
Of course, being at higher risk because of a family history of anxiety or other mental health condition does not necessarily mean that you will also experience the same thing. Genetics aside, each individual is still different, including the way they react to stress and deal with fears, worries and anxieties.
Sometimes, Anxiety Disorders can easily be traced to something medical or even physiological in nature – whether a different health issue or illness altogether, or as a side-effect of medication or drugs that are being taken. This is particularly true if a person’s life has not been characterized by anything excessively stressful or traumatic, there is no family history of anxiety, and you have never suffered from any bouts of anxiety before, whether during your childhood or throughout your life changes and events.
It is certainly possible that certain medications you may be taking can have the unintended side effect of anxiety or even depression. It is also possible that such emotions can be caused by another medical problem, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, asthma, rare tumors, or dementia. In fact, some physical conditions can even mimic of be indistinguishable from the symptoms suffered during an anxiety attack – for instance, an overactive thyroid. On the other hand, anxiety can also take place together with other and separate mental disorders, such as depression. In this case, the more effective treatment should be targeted for both or all conditions being experienced, instead of one or the other exclusively.
This is the reason why getting a professional diagnosis is important. If the anxiety you are feeling is caused by another health condition, then the best way of treating your anxiety is by treating the underlying cause. Rule out other possible causes of the anxiety you may be feeling – this will help you to get appropriate treatment for the appropriate condition you are experiencing.
It seems that certain personality types are more prone to developing Anxiety Disorders than others. Shyness or inhibition during childhood seems to put some people at higher risk of developing Anxiety Disorders when they grow older. This is also true for children who lack self-esteem, are controlling or perfectionists, and are timid or inhibited. Such personality traits sometimes seem to make it more likely that a person will suffer from an anxiety attack at some point in their lives.
Some people do turn to drugs or alcohol to “take the edge off” when suffering from frequent anxiety attacks. One of the more common but inappropriate advice that a person with Anxiety Disorder may hear is to “have a drink or two” to settle one’s nerves.